Did you know that intellectual property theft costs American companies over $300 billion a year in lost revenue?
Intellectual property, which includes copyrights, trade secrets, trademarks, and patents, is worth more to your company than you may think. In fact, in the long term, intellectual property might be more important than tangible assists.
Therefore, it is vital that you take the appropriate steps to protect your intellectual property from thieves, competitors, and cyber attacks.
Types of Intellectual Property
Copyrights are designed to protect original works of authorship in tangible mediums of expression like movies, novels, poetry, music, and computer software. You cannot copyright things like ideas, facts, or operation methods. You must register for a copyright, but it exists from the moment of authorship and lasts for the entirety of the author’s life plus 50 years.
Trade Secrets, though difficult to clearly define, generally represent essential information that give a business an advantage over competitors who are not privy to that information. Because they are not known to the public, businesses typically take deliberate measures to maintain their secrecy.
Trademarks are related to identity or branding. When someone hears the slogan “Think outside the bun®,” they automatically connect it with Taco Bell. But trademarks are not limited to slogans – they can apply to names, sounds, or symbols related to a company. While you can formally register a trademark, the symbol ™ is all you need to mark the item as property of the business.
Patents represent formal ownership over an invention and give your company the legal right to exclude others from selling or marketing your invention. Patents last for 20 years and can be expanded into other countries to further protect your invention.
The U.S. has very comprehensive laws in place to protect intellectual property domestically. Many other nations choose not to offer such protections within their borders. Russia, Ukraine, and China have become ground zero for such crimes because those criminals are rarely prosecuted or completely ignored.
In India, intellectual property laws are pretty weak, so a company that outsources IT jobs there might find that their trade secrets are compromised. While the World Trade Organization’s Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement puts forth a minimum set of standards for intellectual property regulation around the world, many countries don’t enforce it.
That being said, there are certain steps a company can take to protect its intellectual property while outsourcing:
- Have your work space inspected. Make sure that the building has sufficient security with proper security measure in place.
- Encrypt all sensitive information like passwords, credit cards, and personal information and store it behind a protective firewall.
- Make sure the outsourcer has stringent hiring policies and doesn’t also do business with your competitor.
- Familiarize yourself with the host country’s legal and cultural landscape. Know how serious, if at all, the law enforcement and courts are regarding cybercrime and intellectual property crime.
Intellectual Property Protection
Insufficiently protecting your business’s intellectual property can mean huge losses in sales and expensive legal fees in order to get your stolen information back. Take the following steps to keep your property safe:
- Make sure that high-level employees understand the types of intellectual property your company has and methods to protect it. Outline the value of the intellectual property and its potential effects on your bottom line.
- Hire legal counsel that specializes in protecting intellectual property.
- Provide awareness training that teaches your employees how their hard work and original ideas could go to waste if the property is stolen. This will encourage employees to actively follow security measures to protect their work.
- Employ security measures to protect your data: firewalls for routers and computer networks, security cameras around the workplace, locks for storage rooms, etc.
- Shred documents. Properly disposing of business documents is essential to protection your intellectual property. If you can’t handle the amount yourself, you can hire a third party to do this.
- Think of the bigger picture. Odd behavior here or a suspicious act there might not seem like much, but it could very well be clues to a bigger operation to steal intellectual property from your business. Acknowledge every incident and take prevention seriously.
Are you looking to better protect your business’s intellectual property? ERM Insurance Brokers in Irvine, CA can help!
Call (949) 222-0444 to speak with an insurance expert.